Show Me the Money

I was invited by a client to review the remuneration of a group of employees who were seen as mission-critical. So I did what I was told and discovered that the group was paid reasonable well. This left me with a problem that will be familiar to most management consultants. The presenting issue of this consulting engagement did not appear to be the real problem.  Turnover did not seem to be going up because they were underpaid.

So I did some digging. I interviewed a selection of staff and their managers. I read the latest Employee Opinion Survey results and recent exit interview transcripts. Sure enough, the real issue started to emerge. This group of ‘mission-critical’ employees didn’t see a career for themselves with this employer. What they saw was a transaction-based relationship in which they exchanged their services for money on a monthly basis.  Yet again, this was a common enough story.

So I reported back on the remuneration picture and also offered some free advice on the real issue as I now saw it. Happily, the result was a new consulting engagement to build a career framework for this organization.

I find it mildly intriguing that this is a seemingly common story. Senior executives don’t always appear to read the tea leaves in relation to the engagement of their staff – even where those staff are mission-critical.  I imagine it may be because staff often find it easier to complain about money than to broach matters relating to career; but that begs the question why managers don’t try and elicit more discussion on these matters.

Perhaps this in turn points to a deficit in management style – specifically that style that entails taking a long-term interest in someone’s career and development. Just as it’s easier for an employee to present money as the reason for leaving, it’s easier – short-term – for some managers to see a remuneration review as the key to lower turnover.

I appreciate that this sounds like gratuitous advice in a fast-paced business environment where pressure for results is unrelenting and time for lengthy conversations is sparse. Ironically, however, the cost of unplanned turnover or – worst still – disengaged, less productive staff could be the very thing that’s driving those results down.